Gestating Shared Missions (or what I’ll be doing the next nine months)
I’ve been fortunate to work in multiple realms in recent years — from ecosystem building, philanthropic funding and social R&D, to movements, teaching, and collaborative book writing. Most of this has involved supporting social & civic innovation and infrastructures for urban transformation that are fit for the the times we live in and future generations. This has involved creating the conditions for more meaningful participation and learning within and between cities — and with a foundational commitment to decolonizing systems (and continually discovering what that actually means and invites/requires). Most recently, much of my work was carried out with the McConnell Foundation where I learned more than I could have imagined. I loved the work, experiences and relationships built there, and I’ve been profoundly changed by them. Many people have asked me what I’m up to now since leaving McConnell. I shared in a leaving post in February that I wanted to think ahead in a decade context about how I can most effectively contribute value to change in the world. This post sets out some next moves in the journey.
The Big Picture.
I’ve discovered a strong urge — a calling even — to contribute to shared missions — societal level aspirations for transformative change that require addressing coordination failures at multiple scales. Part of that requires (re)designing infrastructures and institutions fit for these turbulent times, and I believe this necessarily involves activating more effective, robust, and plentiful civic and bioregional networks of collaborative governance, commoning, and collective action. A shorthand for this is Civic & Planetary Futures — an overarching mission-level ambition that requires massive numbers of people in coordination across multiple domains and scales. In the language of the third horizon, this vision is looking out toward the transformative innovation of fundamentally new patterns, fields and landscapes that are emerging from the world in transition. I see cities and regions as key sites of this societal change.
So what does this mean for next moves? Over the next nine months I’ll focus my energy in three areas set out below — a ‘portfolio of purpose’. These are discrete areas of work, but there are lots of overlapping themes, and so where appropriate and desirable, we’ll provide for mutually-reinforcing learning and cross pollination of ideas and practices.
City Experiment Fund in Eastern Europe with partners at ALC at the University of the Basque Country, UNDP Innovation, and local teams in Armenia and Kosovo. The work involves co-designing social innovation systems for urban transformation, including processes of listening, co-creating experiments, prototyping, and building collaborative initiatives, as well as codifying the approaches and building team capabilities in order to adapt to local contexts and scale in multiple cities. I’m grateful to work again in this region of the world and with these partners, particularly at this incredibly turbulent and important moment. We’ll share learnings and outcomes as the work evolves in coming months.
Participatory Canada/Participatory City Global with the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, Participatory City Foundation, McGill University, University of Alberta, and others. Over the coming months, we’ll expand partnerships, co-design the ecosystem support platform and scaling plans, and develop a research and evaluation framework for the growing network that can be adapted in diverse contexts. In Canada, the work is Indigenous co-led and centers Truth & Reconciliation, and the Halifax deep demonstration learning node, called Every One Every Day Kjipuktuk, will launch this June. To learn more, check out this site and this book chapter on Social Infrastructure for Our Times, and stay tuned for information soon on the Halifax launch of Every One Every Day, the first deep demonstration of #ParticipatoryCanada as part of the Participatory City Global ecosystem.
#SacredCivics #7GenCities and Civic Futures: These are umbrella terms for work we’re building on social and civic infrastructure, decolonizing systems, next gen cities, and the future of philanthropy, systemic financing, and collaborative governance. Some of current work is informed by our new book Sacred Civics: Building Seven Generation Cities with 25 wonderful authors — a pluriversality of backgrounds and geographies. For this area, I often wear my hat as adjunct professor of urban planning at McGill University, where I sometimes teach and have research collaborations. I’m in discussions to advance this area of work with a number of people and groups, including Dark Matter Labs and the Transition Innovation Group, and I welcome hearing from others who would like to contribute or help build.
I’m excited to focus on the three areas above in coming months. It will involve field building and advising, content development, teaching and research, partnership building, participatory process design, social innovation and financing methods, and co-creating and articulating shared futures. It will be an opportunity to challenge some evolving societal assumptions and hopefully unlock possibilities for collective valuing and commoning with wisdom.
My moves post January 2023 will be informed by what happens in 2022 and the emerging possibilities that come with a transforming world. I can imagine scenarios of working as part of a larger team, working on a next collaborative book or other shared intellectual/practice agenda, and/or co-building in relation to work above or building something new, if that’s what’s needed. #7GenCities is likely to be a part of collaborative work.
On the horizon I sense opportunities to scaffold agendas around Civic & Planetary Futures and their supporting infrastructures and institutions. While that may sound esoteric, I see it manifesting already in communities on the ground, and in quite practical, creative, and highly connected ways. I’ll be paying close attention to these fields.
A final thought. As I look around at the carnage in the world and think ahead to the manifold threats, it occurs to me that while we may face greater challenges than ever before, we’ve also never been better equipped to address them — though only if we can transcend current political and economic logics and organize differently for change. It will surely take the best that we can give — individually and collectively to rise to that. No short order! But sources of hope are all around and possibilities of transcendence are within us. May we learn to create and birth the better worlds our hearts know are possible. I look forward to being part of the change.